How to get art commissions

Anyone who wants to earn a living as an artist will naturally wonder how they can get commissioned to create something — and get paid for it. There’s no one answer, but there’s also nothing mysterious about getting art commissions. 

Commissions typically — and probably exclusively when it comes to the highest-paid ones — go to artists who have established reputations and are known to the people awarding the commissions.

The artists getting commissions also probably have a record of displaying finished works that sell. Art commissions are the culmination of years — if not decades — of hard work building a career.

An artist’s life always seems more romantic to people reading about it than it is for the artists who are living it. Talent is famously no guarantee of success. Vincent van Gogh, who’s been the subject of several movies and countless biographies, and whose paintings sell for tens of millions of dollars on the rare occasions someone puts one up for sale, died of suicide in 1890, having sold only a few paintings.

Artists of all types are driven by passion to produce their work. They’re seldom motivated by money, but getting art commissions is an essential part of how artists make a living.

Here are a few tips on how to get art commissions for your work.

Show your work every chance you get

Who would you be more likely to hire to rebuild a flight of stairs at your house — a carpenter whose work you’ve seen or one who you’ve just heard of? Of course you’d prefer the carpenter whose work you’re more familiar with — presuming you like their work, of course. People and organizations looking to commission an artist think precisely the same way.

It’s imperative that people see your work, so display your art at every opportunity. There are a lot of walls in the world and not enough art to liven all of them up. 

If you’re in a restaurant, library, hotel lobby, or office complex where your work would display well, find whoever is in charge and offer your work for display. If they’re interested, ask if you can include prices or your contact information.

Network on the gallery circuit

Little has changed since the days of van Gogh when it comes to the relationship between an artist’s significance and how many sales they’ve made. A mediocre work of art prominently displayed in an art gallery is far more likely to sell than an unknown masterpiece unseen outside the artist’s studio.

Art galleries sell a significant amount of art, though both art auctions and direct sales by artists aren’t uncommon. It’s a big step in an artist’s career to be able to display their work for the buying public, but to get that opportunity, they must be advocates for their work. 

There’s no audience more important to artists — or more open to hearing from them — than gallery owners. Gallery owners are naturally interested in the work of new artists. All serious buyers — and particularly collectors — are eager to find new art they believe has merit. These buyers frequent well-established galleries and the openings they host to find new art and meet new artists on the scene.

Collectors who shop galleries and frequent artistic circles are the people most likely to inquire about commissioned artworks.

Stay current on social media

This likely goes without saying, but artists hoping to land commissions need to be on the social media platforms best suited for their work.

Explore the potential to sell your work on direct-to-customer platforms, such as Pinterest and Etsy. Depending on their medium, many artists have launched and nurtured their careers using social media. YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter all have potential for winning fans of your work.

Master the business of being an artist

It’s OK to be an eccentric artist — at least until it’s time to finalize a commission and collect the payment. You can easily customize Jotform templates, such as this online painting commission form, to collect the information necessary to formally accept a commission. Jotform also offers over 30 payment gateway integrations to simplify the process of collecting deposits for commissions.

Few people become artists for the money, but all artists need to make money to continue creating. With a lot of work, a persistent strategy, and the right tools to seal the deal, you can succeed at earning a living as an artist.

Peter Page is a professional writer whose career began in print. He has worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs and business leaders as an editor at and Green Entrepreneur. He is now editor for contributed content at Grit Daily News.

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